Topic 1: Vishwakarma scheme

Why in news: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM Vishwakarma scheme in New Delhi on the occasion of Vishwakarma Jayanti, for giving government support to workers engaged in traditional crafts and skills.

About the Vishwakarma scheme

  • It is a new scheme with an outlay of Rs 13,000 crore and is fully funded by the Central government.
  • Vishwakarma, in Hindu mythology, is seen as the architect of the gods and was the divine carpenter and master craftsman who fashioned the weapons of the gods and built their cities and chariots.
  • Some legends say he was the architect of the mythical city Lanka mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana and is also said to have made the great image of Jagannatha at Puri in Odisha.
  • He is considered the patron deity of workers, artisans, and artists.
  • Eligibility:
    • The professionals engaged in traditional crafts and skills for centuries, often taught by elders in the family, have faced certain problems.
    • These include a lack of professional training for their work, of modern tools, the issue of distance from the markets relevant to them and the availability of little capital for investment.
    • Such artisans will be covered.
  • Benefits:
    • The scheme is to help enhance the skills of workers employed in these fields and help them avail loans easily to aid their earnings.
    • Under the scheme, the Vishwakarma workers will be registered for free through Common Services Centres using the biometric-based PM Vishwakarma portal.
    • They will then be provided recognition through the PM Vishwakarma certificate and ID card.
    • They will be given skill upgradation involving basic and advanced training, a toolkit incentive of ₹15,000, collateral-free credit support up to ₹1 lakh (first tranche) and ₹2 lakh (second tranche) at a concessional interest rate of 5%, incentive for digital transactions and marketing support.

Topic 2: Gaja dwar and the new Parliament building

Why in news: Vice-President of India hoisted the national flag at the Gaja Dwar of the new Parliament building.

About the Gaja Dwar:

  • The new Parliament has six entrances, each signifying a different role.
  • The sculpture of an elephant or Gaja has been installed to guard the entrance to the north, since the animal represents wisdom and wealth, intellect, and memory, and also embodies the aspirations of the elected representatives of the democracy.
  • According to Vastu shastra, the northern direction is associated with planet Mercury, which is the source of higher intellect.
  • The Lord of the direction is Kubera, the god of wealth.
  • Therefore, the Gaja is placed to the north.

Cultural symbolism

  • In the New Parliament Building, red sandstone sculptures of auspicious animals have been installed as ‘guardian statues’ on all the six entrances based on their importance in Indian culture, their aesthetic appearance, positive qualities, and the study of Vaastu Shastra.
  • Apart from the Gaja dwar, the others are:
    • Asva:
      • Asva or the horse standing alert and ready at the southern entrance is symbolic of endurance and strength, power, and speed, also describing the quality of governance.
    • Garuda:
      • The eagle-like Garuda stands at the eastern ceremonial entrance, signifying the aspirations of the people and the administrators of the country.
      • The eastern direction is associated with the rising sun representing hope, the glory of victory, and success.
    • Makara:
      • A mythological aquatic creature, the Makara combines the bodily parts of different animals, representing, unity in diversity among the people of the country.
    • Shardula:
      • Another mythological creature, Shardula is said to be the most powerful, foremost of all living beings, symbolising the power of the people of the country.
    • Hamsa:
      • The most important quality of the people of a democracy is the power of discernment and self-realisation born of wisdom.
      • Reminding the people of this essential feature is the Hamsa, or swan, at the public entrance to the north east.

Ceremonial entrances

  • Out of these six entrances, three are designed as ceremonial entrances, to welcome special guests and to mark special events.
  • They have been named as GyanShakti and Karma, representing the Indian knowledge system, patriotism and artistic traditions, respectively.

Topic 3: What is driving the Global Biofuels Alliance?

Why in news: The grouping, called the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) would attempt to bring countries together to co-develop, accelerate technological advances in production processes, and advocate for the use of biofuels particularly in the transport sector.

Key details:

  • The three founding membersIndia, the U.S. and Brazil, were joined by ArgentinaCanadaItaly and South Africa, who are also G-20 member countries.

What are biofuels?

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines biofuels as liquid fuels derived from biomass and used as an alternative to fossil fuel based liquid transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels.

Are biofuels an alternative to fossil fuels?

  • Distinction is made between biofuels and sustainable biofuels.
    • Biofuels are derived from crops grown specifically to produce biofuels such as sugarcane, corn, or soybean.
      • It is referred to as 1G ethanol, or first-generation biofuel.
    • Sustainable biofuels are generated from agricultural waste, used cooking oil and processed animal residues like fats.
      • It is referred to as 2G, that is second-generation.
  • This distinction has now come into sharp focus as climate change accelerates, with fears of threat to food security and increased loss of forests and biodiversity due to greater land required for farming.
  • Estimates suggest that well over half of all vegetated land is under cultivation today, and that agriculture is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters.
  • The GBA has emphasised that its focus would be to develop 2G ethanol.

Why is there a renewed focus on biofuels?

  • With severe disruptions to global crude oil supplies following the Ukraine war, several countries have been scrambling to find alternatives to the import dependence on petrol and diesel.
    • India, for instance, imports 87% of its crude oil, and it is the main reserve currency expenditure for the country.
  • With transport accounting for about one-quarter of global carbon emissions, there have been renewed attempts to accelerate the decarbonising of this sector, with several countries announcing battery production and electric vehicle (EV) policies and legacy automakers entering the now thriving EV sector.
  • But some modes of transport like aviationshipping and long-haul trucking will find it harder to reduce carbon emissions than say, self-driven cars or motorbikes.
  • It is here that 2G ethanol could be a valuable substitute.

Do biofuels aid energy transition?

  • Most biofuels today are blended with petrolor diesel at varying degrees.
    • For instance, India blends about 10% of biofuels and has plans to double this in the coming years.
  • While accelerating EV adoption and developing alternatives like green hydrogen must be the focus of the ongoing energy transition2G ethanol would soften the impending disruption.
    • It would do so by allowing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions even while stretching the life of internal combustion engines, giving time for automakers to develop robust alternatives, while increasing farmers’ incomes and providing jobs.

Way forward:

  • The three founding members of the GBA produce 85% of global biofuels and consume about 81% of it.
  • The U.S. announced its latest amended “Renewable Fuel Standard” to substantially increase the production of biofuels and substitute about 1,40,000 barrels per day of crude oil imports by 2025.
  • India had announced the setting up of 12 new refineries as early as 2018 with the aim to meet 20% ethanol blending by 2025.
    • This becomes even more significant following India’s announcement to become net zero (removing as much carbon from the atmosphere as human activity emits) by 2070.
  • The IEA predicts that about two-thirds of the global biofuel demand will come from three emerging economies – IndiaBrazil and Indonesia.
    • They have ample domestic feedstocksadditional production capacity, relatively low production costs and a package of policies they can leverage to increase demand.
  • However, it remains to be seen if this would indeed hasten decarbonising of the energy sector.

Topic 4: London’s India Club

Why in news: London’s India Club, a rest stop for Indians in the United Kingdom during the independence movement, is set to close down permanently after decades of operations.

About the Club:

  • The restaurant served Indian food items and also functioned as a lounging club where those associated with India in the UK would often meet.
  • The club is located in London.
  • It was started in 1951 by the India League, a British organisation that started out as an advocate for Indian independence and self-rule (swaraj).
  • It included members of the elite in the British society.
  • Later on, it hoped to play a role in furthering Indo-British friendship in the post-independence era.
  • The India Club then quickly became a base for groups like the league, which were serving the Asian community, such as:
    • The Indian Journalist Association,
    • Indian Workers Association and
    • Indian Socialist Group of Britain.
  • The building was also a base for the new wings of the India League which ran a free legal advice bureau and a research and study unit from this address.

Topic 5: Project to reconstruct an ancient ‘stitched ship’

Why in news: The Ministry of Culture has recently joined hands with the Indian Navy and Goa-based Hodi Innovations to reconstruct an ancient stitched ship – reminiscent of the ships that sailed the oceans on India’s ancient maritime trade routes as many as 2,000 years ago.

About the Project

  • The project entails collaboration across several ministries and departments.
  • The Indian Navy is overseeing the ship’s design and construction and would also be sailing the ship along ancient maritime trade routes.
  • The Ministry of Culture has fully funded the project.
  • The ministries of Shipping and External Affairs will be supporting the project in its execution stage.
  • The project was approved by the National Implementation Committee, chaired by Home Minister.

What is stitched ship technique:

  • This age-old technique involves shaping the wooden planks using the traditional steaming method to conform to the shape of the hull.
  • Each plank will then be stitched to another using cords/ ropes, sealed with a combination of coconut fibreresin, and fish oil – akin to the ancient Indian shipbuilding practice.
  • The ancient stitching technique almost became extinct after the Britishers came to India, where the wooden planks were nailed to support the recoil of canons.
  • The earliest known example of a sewn boat is the 40+ metres long funerary boat in Egypt; dating back to 2,500 BC.
  • Later finds in other parts of the world include some early Greek ships.
  • In FinlandRussiaKarelia and Estonia, small sewn boats have been constructed more recently, until the 1920s.

The Voyage

  • Once the ship is ready, the voyage with a seam of 13 Indian Navy crew from Odisha’s Cuttack will be sent to Bali in Indonesia.
  • The voyage will be a part of the initiative to revive and honour India’s old maritime trade routes.
  • This also fits in with the larger decolonisation project undertaken, in the run-up to 2047, when independent India turns 100.
Project MausamThis initiative is in synergy with the Ministry of Culture’s Project Mausam.It aims to reconnect and re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world, to create an understanding of cultural values and concerns.Project Mausam aims to rebuild maritime cultural connections with the 39 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.Project Mausam is said to be India’s answer to the Maritime Silk Road of China.India plans to move for UNESCO to award transnational heritage status to Project Mausam, which was launched by India at the 38th World Heritage Session at Doha in 2014.

Topic 6: India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor (updated from 11th September 2023)

Why in news: Indian Prime Minister announced the launch of the India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor.

About the project:

  • The initiative, jointly spearheaded by the US and India, spans connectivity and infrastructure running through IndiaSaudi Arabia, the United Arab EmiratesJordanIsrael and the European Union.
  • The rail and shipping corridor is part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII).
    • PGII is a collaborative effort by G7 nations to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations.
    • PGII is considered to be the bloc’s counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Aim:
    • The project will aim to enable greater trade among the involved countries, including energy products.
  • What the project will include:
    • The corridor will include:
      • rail link
      • an electricity cable
      • hydrogen pipeline and
      • high-speed data cable.
  • The IMEE EC will consist of two separate corridors:
    • East Corridor connecting India to West Asia/Middle East and
    • Northern Corridor connecting West Asia/Middle East to Europe.
  • It will include a rail line that will provide a reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement the existing multi-modal transport routes.

Need of the project:

  • It would increase prosperity among the countries involved through an increased flow of energy and digital communications.
  • The project would help deal with the lack of infrastructure needed for growth in lower- and middle-income nations.
  • It could help turn the temperature down on turbulence and insecurity coming out of the Middle East.
What is the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII)?In 2022, during the G7 summit in Germany, the PGII was officially launched as a joint initiative to help fund infrastructure projects in developing countries through public and private investments.It was presented as an alternative in response to the infrastructure projects being undertaken and funded by China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at a global. 

Need for an alternative

  • Working of BRI:
    • China began the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 which aims to revive the ancient trade routes crossing to and from China–from Rome in Europe to East Asia.
    • Under this, the Chinese government helped in providing loans for infrastructure projects to various countries.
    • In many cases, Chinese companies were awarded contracts for carrying out the work.
    • This helped China mark its footprints at a global level.
  • Criticism of BRI:
    • China was criticised for providing unsustainable debts to countries that will be unable to repay them.
    • According to a 2019 World Bank report, among the 43 corridor economies, 12 could face a situation where debts were not sustainable, which could lead to public assets being handed over to foreign contractors or China itself.
    • India opposed the BRI as it included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connected Kashgar in China with the Gwadar port in Pakistan via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Significance of the project for India:

  • For India, this new connectivity architecture could result in an alternative trans-regional commercial transportation route, joining forces in petrochemicals manufacturing by integrating India’s hydrocarbon value chain and creating an innovation corridor for green energy and innovative technology manufacturing value chains.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative The BRI is an ambitious plan to develop two new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world.It is an effort to develop an expandedinterdependent market for China, grow China’s economic and political power, and create the right conditions for China to build a high technology economy.The BeltThe Silk Road Economic ‘Belt’ element refers to plans for a revitalized series of ancient overland trading routes connecting Europe and Asia to be built largely with Chinese expertise.The RoadIn 2014 China outlined plans to additionally establish new sea trade infrastructure along the old Marco Polo route – a maritime silk road connecting ChinaSoutheast AsiaAfrica, and Europe.This would be a longer route avoiding the Malacca Strait, incorporating fuelling stations, ports, bridges, industry, and infrastructure through Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean.Pakistan is seen as perhaps the most crucial partner country in this effort through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.


  • New constructions for missing links:
    • The onward rail route connectivity from five ports in the UAE and Saudi Arabia stretching up to the Haifa port in Israel will be a mix of already existing brownfield projects and fresh greenfield projects to connect missing links.
    • Important technical points have been outlined and preliminary alignments are being finalised, to achieve seamless transportation.
    • However, it will take a lot of work to achieve this.
  • China cannot be ruled out:
    • While the IMEC has been proposed to counter the Belt and Road Initiative of China, Chinese presence cannot be wished away along the IMEC route.
    • This is because the Piraeus port is controlled by China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company which is a Chinese state-owned company.
    • Also, Chinese companies have qualified for multiple packages for Phase 1 and 2 of Etihad Rail.
  • Objections by Egypt:
    • Currently, all trade between India and Europe happens via the sea route, that passes through Suez Canal, controlled by Egypt.
    • Egypt, which could lose revenue if the Suez Canal is bypassed, could also raise objections to the plan.

How will Middle East corridor impact trade?

  • It has often been believed that China is utilising the BRI from the Indo-Pacific to West Asia to further their economic and political influence, particularly on sovereigns with relatively unstable economies.
  • corridor connecting India to Europe via West Asia and the Mediterranean region could alternative trans-regional commercial transportation route to the troubled Chabahar-based International North-South Transit Corridor.
  • From Mumbai, Indian goods shipped by this route could arrive on the European mainland in as less as 10 days — 40% faster than through the Suez Canal maritime route.

How does this affect Israel and Gulf ties?

  • Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic ties — primarily because of differences of opinion about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
  • Israel has official ties only with EgyptJordan, the UAEBahrain and Morocco in the Arab region.
  • In this light, the transit network which seeks integration on multiple fronts assumes particular significance.
  • The corridor’s passage through Jordan and Israel could also support the effort to build on the recent normalisation of ties between Israel and several Arab states, including the UAE.
  • With Saudi Arabia being the world’s top exporter of oil and the UAE being West Asia’s dominant finance centre, that both are seeking to project themselves as key logistics and trade hubs between east and west.

Topic 7: Amigurumi dolls

Why in news: Dolls crocheted by displaced people living in relief camps in ethnic conflict-hit Manipur are set to go global.

Key details:

  • 1 Million Heroes, a multi-platform entertainment brand for children, has undertaken a project to train the State’s internally displaced people in crocheting amigurumi dolls for export.

About the dolls:

  • Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed yarn creatures.
  • Amigurumi vary in size and there are no restrictions about size or look.
  • Amigurumi may be used as children’s toys but are generally purchased or made solely for aesthetic purposes.
  • Amigurumi can be knitted, though they are usually crocheted out of yarn or thread, using the basic techniques of crochet (such as single crochet stitch, double crochet, and invisible decrease).
  • Amigurumi can be worked as one piece or, more usually, in sections which are sewed or crocheted together.

Topic 8: Payment system operator

Why in news: Online payment platform PayPal has moved the Delhi High Court against a single judge’s order, which ruled that it was a “payment system operator” under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and is obliged to comply with reporting entity obligations under the law as a result.

Difference between a payment system and a payment system operator

  • Payment system is a system which enables payment between a payer and a beneficiary and includes systems which enable credit/debit card operationsmoney transfer operations or similar operations.
  • It is a mode by which two persons/entities can transact monetarily.
  • The PMLA defines a “payment system operator” as a person which includes an individual, a company, a firm etc., who operates a payment system.
    • Such person includes his overseas principal (an individual or a company which resides or is registered outside India and owns/manages directly or indirectly activities of the payment system in India).

What is a reporting entity:

  • A “reporting entity” under the PMLA means a banking companyfinancial institutionintermediary or a person carrying on a designated business or profession.
  • A “person” under the PMLA is an inclusive definition which includes an individual, a firm, a company, and an agency among others.
  • The PMLA lays down certain obligations of reporting entities. Some of them include:
    • maintaining a record of all transactions,
    • keeping them confidential, and
    • verifying the identity of their clients under the Aadhar Act.
    • maintain information on enhanced due diligence for a period of five years.
PMLA ActPrevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was enacted to fight against the criminal offence of legalizing the income/profits from an illegal source.The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 enables the Government or the public authority to confiscate the property earned from the illegally gained proceeds.Any person who directly or indirectly:Attempts to indulge.Assists the person who is actually involved in any process is a party to the activity connected with the proceeds of crime.The Act was formulated for the following objectives:Prevent money-laundering.Combat/prevent channelising of money into illegal activities and economic crimes.Provide for the confiscation of property derived from, or involved/used in, money-laundering.Provide for matters connected and incidental to the acts of money laundering.Actions that can be initiated against persons involved in ML:Seizure/freezing of property and records and attachment of property obtained with the proceeds of crime.Any person who commits the offence of money laundering shall be punishable with –Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of three years and this may extend up to seven years.Fine (without any limit).